Tips and Advice from a Learning Coach

DSC07461Are you new to PA Virtual and wondering what your life as a Learning Coach is going to be like? Or have you been with us for a while and wondering if your experience is the same or different than other Learning Coaches?

Staff member and Learning Coach Cindy Dingledein shares her persepctive in this week’s blog. Cindy is a Regional Coordinator in Central PA and this is her family’s 11th year in the school. Cindy and her husband pastor a church together and Cindy serves on the board of a local non-profit. In her free time, she loves to read, do photography, cook & garden, and “use every sense I’ve been given at the ocean.”

Ah, the days of kindergarten when books were simple and cuddle time was plentiful. Compare that to high school where literature is “discussed” with the teacher and other students in breakout rooms and the learning coach may have a glimpse into the conversation by listening in on the class or when the student deems it appropriate.

For me the greatest goal in the life of the Learning Coach is to foster a love of learning in your student(s). Not only K12 learning—which has been a good fit for our family—but learning in general. Character building skills; the how to’s of life, (such as car repair—or in my case the lawnmower), attending to your home, reading for enjoyment, cooking, riding horses, swimming how to play and a myriad of other pleasures can be experienced through that lifetime love. What is it that you love and dream of?

The Learning Coach is vital in the elementary years. Being there…both as mom and LC, or teacher, or assistant to the teacher, however you say it. I remember the “teacher” apron that I donned every morning when mommy time ended and our relationship changed a little. As the LC, you not only are involved in the ABC’s of curriculum, you teach respect, listening, and other communication skills; habits like cleaning up at the end of the day; and life lessons like how to walk away from one part of life to fully live the rest of it.

The Online School (OLS) gets easier to maneuver as the days go by. You will learn that every listed exercise is not required, but your student(s) needs to “get” the goal of the lesson. Some of the lessons will take longer than others to comprehend. Along with the PA Virtual teacher invited into your home each day, the LC is the backbone of consistency in the student’s life.

In the upper elementary grades when writing may seem overwhelming, aim for one good writing experience a day. Keep a history or science notebook for your student to write a few sentences for each lesson in the unit. A notebook can be used as a review for tests as well as a teaching tool for the future.

As your student(s) becomes a more independent learner, it is going to be more difficult for you than it may be for them. Yet they still need you…they need your presence and  a familiar voice that says everything is going to be okay after a difficult day. They need you for inspection and writing tips, and for being a cheerleader and their own personal proofreader.

To be successful, bear in mind how important the communication is between yourself and the others involved in your student’s life. The teacher, guidance counselor, principals, Family Support Coordinator, and even the Pupil Health staff all are available for direction. Read and respond to emails in your parent account and monitor your student(s) account as well.

Being a Learning Coach involves a great deal of trial and error. There is no perfect system for your home: it depends on personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and styles of learning for everyone involved. Especially with younger children, starting as a LC can require a large sacrifice of your time and require you to place some activities on hold for a few years to benefit your student’s future. Your meals may become simpler, TV time limited, and a schedule the savior of the day!

If you have a difficult day, walk away for a few moments, breathe deep and start again at another time or move on to a different subject. And on the days that fly by and you know you’ve got this, enjoy!


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